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TT Court Vision: Maryland uses excellent defense to upset Minnesota on the road

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We take to the film to see how Maryland’s energetic defense and offensive game plan led to the victory

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the Testudo Times film room. Maryland men’s basketball pulled off another upset win on the road over a ranked opponent, this time against No. 17 Minnesota, 63-49. This is the third victory over a ranked opponent on the road this season for Maryland, marking the first time a team has done so in program history.

The Terps never trailed in the game, asserting themselves defensively right from the opening tip. After a lackluster defensive performance against Michigan, head coach Mark Turgeon’s squad was energetic, active and contesting everything on the defensive end. The Terps held Minnesota to a season low in points and the Gophers shot just 30% from the field and 21% from three.

While the defense carried the way, the Terps came in with an offensive game plan to spread the floor with a small ball lineup and attack Minnesota big man Liam Robbins. That plan was executed brilliantly and Robbins ended up fouling out with just under five minutes to go in the game.

Eric Ayala led the way for the Terps, attacking the basket and knocking down three balls to finish with 21 points, four rebounds and three steels. Donta Scott was the only other Maryland player to finish in double figures with 15 points on 50% shooting from beyond the arc, to go along with a team-high 11 rebounds.

Let's look at the film to break it all down.

Maryland’s stifling defense was too much for the Golden Gophers

Ayala said the team had a long film session after the Michigan loss to break down poor defensive possessions from the game. Maryland certainly responded on Saturday as it displayed phenomenal defense throughout. The team was energetic, quick on rotations and consistently moving on the flight of the ball to recover.

Maryland started a small ball lineup with no traditional big against Minnesota. That meant that Scott was tasked with guarding Robbins. Here, Ayala is in the perfect help position, so when the pass is thrown too Robbins in the post, the junior is there for the double on the catch. This forces Robbins to throw a crosscourt pass, at which point both Aaron Wiggins and Hakim Hart do a tremendous job of closing out with urgency to force a drive and prevent any easy shot.

This is a play from the previous game against Michigan. It is a similar sequence where Maryland doubles the big man, he kicks the ball out and Maryland tries to contest. However, the noticeable difference here is how the Terps a step slow on the closeout and a lack of urgency is present. This allowed Michigan to get an open three.

Against Minnesota, the Terps did a significantly better job closing out on shooters and playing desperately on the defensive end.

Here is another possession of terrific defense from the Terps, particularly Hart. Hart closes out on his man on the wing and forces him to the baseline. Darryl Morsell comes over to help, forcing Minnesota’s guard to pass it out. Minnesota’s other guard then tries to drive downhill with his right hand, but Hart steps up in the gap to prevent that. He kicks it to the wing and Hart recovers quickly, using his long arms to block the shot.

This is an on-ball defensive clinic from Morsell. He is guarding one of the best scorers in the Big Ten in Marcus Carr and does a terrific job of moving his feet, keeping his arms up and just suffocating Carr, eventually forcing him to give it up. Morsell is the leader and best defender on this Maryland team, which was on full display against the Gophers.

This is great pick and roll defense from Ayala and Scott. Ayala’s man sets a screen on Scott, and instead of dropping back and waiting for Scott to get back, which Maryland has often done this year, Ayala gets out on the ball handler and blocks his three-point attempt.

Maryland did a good job of spreading the floor on offense

Minnesota’s big man Robbins is the leading shot blocker in the Big Ten. When facing a shot blocker like that, it is essential to try to get him away from the basket as much as possible to open up opportunities at the rim. Maryland did just that.

Turgeon started a small ball lineup which required Robbins to guard on the perimeter, where he is slow footed and not as comfortable. The Terps also ran multiple pick and roll actions with Robbins man as the screener to get him away from the rim.

Here, Robbins is guarding Scott, so Scott sets a screen for Hart. Hart attacks the basket with Robbins now trailing him. The help defenders converge on Hart at the rim, so he kicks out for an open three ball in the corner.

While the shot was missed, this is an example of how getting Robbins away from the basket created opportunities for the Terps.

Because Maryland went small for much of the game, Robbins had to guard players like Scott and Jairus Hamilton, who are both a threat to shoot and can explode to the basket. Here, Robbins is caught guarding Scott out of position. The sophomore from Philadelphia uses his athleticism to simply blow by Robbins and attempt a thunderous slam at the rim. Robbins commits one of his five fouls on the play.

Robbins was in foul trouble for much of the game, which limited his minutes and benefitted the Terps on both ends of the floor. Robbins is again caught guarding on the perimeter and this time it’s Hamilton he’s matched up with. Hamilton attacks him on the closeout and also attempts the dunk before Robbins fouls him. This was Robbins fifth foul of the game, ending his outing early.

Ayala was special on offense all afternoon for the Terps

In the last few games, Ayala had been banged up coming off an injury. However, against Minnesota he looked back to form, getting downhill, creating for his teammates and shooting 50% from three-point range.

This is just a spectacular drive from Ayala. He goes behind the back to blow by his man before jumping at the trees for a tough finish in traffic.

This is another strong drive from Ayala. He attacks from the left wing going downhill with his right hand. He breaks shoulders with his defender before coming to a jump stop in the paint, using a head fake and his footwork to create space and gets the lay-in to go.

Ayala has been a streaky shooter throughout the season, but that was certainly not the case on Saturday. He was shooting with confidence and hitting contested shots, even knocking this one down from beyond NBA range to give the Terps an early 14-point lead.